The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday said that changing the ownership registration of its main office in Tokyo — registered in the name of former representative to Japan Ma Chi-chuang (馬紀壯), who died 18 years ago — is prohibitively expensive, with alterations to each deed estimated to cost at least ￥70 million (US$674,000).
The ministry was responding to comments made by Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who criticized the ministry for registering the properties of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan in the name of a private individual.
According to ministry data, in addition to the representative office’s properties in Tokyo, its properties in Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka and other cities are similarly registered in the names of former representatives, including Ke Chen-hua (柯振華), Shen Kuo-hsiung (沈國雄) and Kuo Ming-shan (郭明山).
Photo: Chang Mao-sen, Taipei Times
However, the ministry denied that it had procrastinated on changing the registrations of the properties when representatives are transferred or replaced, saying it had considered making the changes, but those plans were abandoned due to the high costs of altering the deeds when there are no legal liabilities associated with registering them in the names of individuals.
In each case, legally binding documents that affirm the government’s ownership of the properties had been signed by the nominal owners, which barred them from bequeathing or transferring the properties to another party, the ministry said.
Under those circumstances, the high costs of altering the deeds are not justified, it said, adding that the ministry is nevertheless committed to finding a better way to secure the legal protection of the government’s overseas properties.
Following Japan severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972, the properties used by the nation’s embassy in Japan lost the privileges and protections afforded to diplomatic establishments under Japanese law.
Reacting to the situation, the nation’s de facto representative office in Japan registered the many properties it owned in the names of various representatives and officials, the ministry said, adding that the method was at the time viewed as “expedient” and not a long-term solution.
The ministry also expressed misgivings about Hsieh’s suggestion that the properties be registered in the name of a foundation, saying that under Japanese law, local authorities have the power to inspect and regulate properties owned by legal entities and such a situation would do harm to “the status and dignity of the nation’s diplomatic missions.”
Hsieh on Thursday said that while the two nations’ representative offices were established in the wake of the severance of diplomatic ties, which is an extremely special case, he believes that there is plenty of room for negotiation over the costs of changing the registration of the buildings.
Additional reporting by Chang Mao-sen
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